Catalonia fails to vote in new president as third pro-independence candidate loses secessionist support | News | DW | 23.03.2018
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Catalonia fails to vote in new president as third pro-independence candidate loses secessionist support

Far-left lawmakers appeared to see a lack of commitment to the pro-independence cause in Jordi Turull. The 51-year-old had called for dialogue with the Spanish government ahead of the vote.

Catalan presidential candidate Jordi Turull in the regional parliament (Reuters/A. Gea)

Jordi Turull

Catalonia's political limbo continued on Thursday after far-left separatist lawmakers withdrew their support for the latest candidate for the regional presidency.

Jordi Turull, a former Catalan government spokesman, fell short of an absolute majority in the 135-seat Catalan parliament required to win. Sixty-four lawmakers voted in favor, 65 against and four abstained.

Read more: Catalan separatists march in Barcelona calling for split from Spain

The far-left CUP party, which supports Catalonia's split from Spain, announced shortly before the election that its four lawmakers would abstain.

The parliament is set to hold a second vote on Turull's candidacy within the next 48 hours. The 51-year-old Turull only needs a simple majority to win that vote, but a lack of legislative support could stop him from progressing.

Legal challenges

Turull is set to appear before a judge on Friday as part of a probe into his role in the region's independence drive in October.

Police had arrested Turull for a short time on charges of rebellion and sedition but released him on bail in exchange for his accepting central government control of Catalonia.

The judge could order Turull's rearrest or alternatively declare him ineligible to become president. The Spanish government has already said it will not allow anyone involved in the independence campaign to take over the regional president post.

Read more: Catalonia's Carles Puigdemont warns of 'repeat elections' as top court blocks successor

Call for dialogue

Turull adopted a measured tone in a speech ahead of the vote. He did not mention the word "independence" and called for dialogue with the Spanish government.

"We ask to sit at the same table to resolve politically the problems we face," he said.

CUP lawmakers had nevertheless called for a candidate committed to pushing for the region's independence.

Read more: Protesters mock Catalan independence bid with secession call of their own

Third time the charm?

Turull is the third candidate to be forwarded by Catalonia's separatist parties after former regional President Carles Puigdemont and pro-independence campaigner Jordi Sanchez both withdrew their bids.

Puigdemont, who led the failed independence drive, has been in self-imposed exile in Belgium since the Spanish government charged him with rebellion and sedition.

Sanchez has been in jail since Spain arrested him over his role in the controversial independence campaign.

Read more: Catalan independence: Challenges ahead for Puigdemont and secessionist political unity

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Clock is ticking

Thursday's vote kicked off a two-month time window for the regional parliament to install a new president or call new elections.

Until then, the Spanish government is set to continue using constitutional powers invoked after the independence crisis to directly rule the region.

Separatist parties have been trying to elect a president and form a new regional government since defending their absolute majority in the Catalan parliament in regional elections in December.

Read more: Carles Puigdemont gives up candidacy for Catalan presidency

amp/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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